Whitehall in U-turn on data protection

The government has dropped highly controversial proposals to allow the NHS to share patient records with the police, government agencies and research bodies.

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The government has dropped highly controversial proposals to allow the NHS to share patient records with the police, government agencies and research bodies.

The proposals had angered civil liberty campaigners, as well as IT and medical associations.

The British Computer Society said the plans could "damage – possibly wreck" efforts to persuade the public that large databases of their information are safe.

Last week, a letter from eight healthcare bodies including the British Medical Association, expressed "grave concerns" that the plan could undermine the public's confidence in their doctors.

Jack Straw, justice secretary, yesterday told the Observer newspaper that the clause had been scrapped.

But he defended the original plans, saying: “Absolutely no part of the purpose of this legislation was to extend a Big Brother society - quite the reverse - but I understand people's anxiety ... I have never had a piece of legislation that was not improved by public debate during its passage through parliament."

Straw will now launch a public consultation on how to implement other more limited proposals, the Observer reported.

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